Belgrade was the capital of Serbia. It was at the time if World War I located in northern Serbia close to the Austro-Hungarian (Croatian) and Romanian border. It was the primary objective of the Austrian punishmebnt effort (July 1914). The seizure of Belgrade in the Austro-German offensive (October 1915) was not the first time during the that the Austrian troops had occupied the Serbian capital. The Austrians had begun a miliitary cmpaign to punish the Serbs even before World war I broke out. This was the result of the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo which would ultimalely lead to World War I. Serbia proved a harder nut for the Austrians to crack than they had anticipated. The Austro-Hungarian Army was much larger and better equipped, but could not be fully committed because the Russians supported the Serbs and engaged the Austrians on the Eastern Front (Augist 1914). The Austrian managed to finally take Belgrade after several months of very hard fighting. (December 1, 1914). The Austrians set about punishment operations, reducing areas of the city to rubble. One of the most heavily targeted areas was Belgrade University, a center of nationalist senyiment and secret societies. An American journalist wrote, "The Austrians had made it their special target, for there had been the hotbed of pan-Serbian propaganda, and among the students that formed the secret society whose members murdered the Archduke Franz Ferdinand." [Reed] The Serbs counterattacked 2 weeks later and retook the city, captured 40,000 Austrian prisoners. We are not sure how POWs were treated in the early stages of the War. The front lines, however, remained close to the city. The Austrians and Serbs fought it out for much of 1915, but the Serbs held on to Belgrade. The Germans sent forces to support the Austrians and in a massive new offensive, took the city (October 9). Two days later the Bulgarians attacked in the south, making any Serbian countr-offensive impossible. Belgrade and Serbia would be occupied by the Central Powers until the end of the War.
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